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Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol

Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol

It’s Fall – my favorite season. Which means Halloween is just around the corner.

I’m heading to Europe here for a business trip that will take me through Paris. While looking into things to do, I found out about this theater. It was located in the Pigalle area of Paris (20 bis, rue Chaptal). From its opening in 1897 until its closing in 1962, and specialized in naturalistic horror shows. Its had live staged graphic, amoral horror entertainment, a genre popular from Elizabethan and Jacobean theater (other examples include Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, and Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi and The White Devil). Today, we might call them splatter films. While it was always staged horror, the “special effects” would sometimes be too realistic and it was reported audience member would faint or vomit during performances. It was said the ‘success’ of the show was rated by how many people fainted.

It didn’t help that the building was an old chapel. The Gothic interior added to the ambiance. Here were some of the plays for example:

  • Le Laboratoire des Hallucinations, by André de Lorde: When a doctor finds his wife’s lover in his operating room, he performs a graphic brain surgery, rendering the adulterer a hallucinating semi-zombie. Now insane, the lover/patient hammers a chisel into the doctor’s brain
  • Un Crime dans une Maison de Fous, by André de Lorde: Two hags in an insane asylum use scissors to blind a pretty, young fellow inmate out of jealousy
  • L’Horrible Passion, by André de Lorde: A nanny strangles the children in her care
  • Le Baiser dans la Nuit, by Maurice Level: A young woman visits the man whose face she horribly disfigured with acid, where he obtains his revenge

It’s interesting that it waned in the years following World War II then closed in 1962. Management attributed the closure in part to the fact that the theater’s faux horrors had been eclipsed by the actual events of WW II two decades earlier. Apparently people had their fill of realistic horrors.

Read more about it here:
http://www.grandguignol.com

 

Missing Million

Missing Million

I’ve mentioned this phenomenon before – but the BBC did a small documentary on it.

Hundreds of thousands of young men are turning their backs entirely on society and real life. They are choosing instead to lock themselves away, usually in their bedrooms, for years. They literally enter their rooms and refuse to leave. The phenomenon is called hikikomori in Japanese and it literally means ‘to withdraw from society’.

Most of the sufferers of this condition live in the suburbs that surround Japan’s major cities. Recent surveys show that the majority are male and usually the first-born child. There are many stories of young men who give up on society. Some seem to be unable to handle academic or job pressure, others simply got fed up of people and still others do it out of fear of not being good enough and anxiety about their future.

Japanese teens are growing up under an overwhelming amount of technology, which seems to have replaced the inherent human experience, making teens handicapped when it comes to communicating honestly and openly with other people.

After a few years, some hikikomori victims recover enough to re-enter society. Another young man who spent three years as a recluse is now a counselor working with a support group for parents. In Japan it takes parents up to four years of not seeing their child before they seek outside help.

Hearing for the first time…

Hearing for the first time…

We are far greater than the limitations of our bodies. It’s moments like this that show our transcendent natures…

Christy Keane’s daughter Charly was born deaf. She’s still an infant, but recently got hearing aids. We’ve seen older children and adults get emotional when they hear sound for the first time, but Charly is so young, she doesn’t understand what’s happening or how to react. Her facial expressions are precious.

Compare these reactions of Charly and a 29 year old:

With this:

Robotic Magic

Robotic Magic

The double pendulum problem is kind of a historical/mathematical marvel. It is very easy to predict the motion of a common, everyday clock pendulum that swings back and forth; but add another pendulum at the end of that, and the complexity shoots through the roof in the most unexpected ways. It puzzled early mathematicians for years.

The system begins to exhibit chaotic motion, and the mathematics needed to solve the motion goes from simple polynomial math to Lagrange differential equations requiring a full college program of Calculus to solve. Here’s a full solution write-up.

Solving is one problem, but making something useful out of it is even more impressive. Here are two robots that can balance not only a double pendulum, but a triple! One application would be to have self-parking and skid-controllable multi-trailer semis. There are probably many more.

If the original double-pendulum mathematicians could see this, they would consider is sorcery. If you’ve ever tried to balance a broom on your hand, you should also marvel:

Triple pendulum:

Cable robots

Cable robots

Cable robots are capable of some extremely fast and ultra-precise movements. They also scale to large sizes better than articulated ones. Check out the extremely fast and precise movement of this system:

Or large scale capable of carrying a human:

They also can be used for haptic feedback systems:

Experimental ball pit

Experimental ball pit

Elements, an experimental art film by Maxim Zhestkov, follows more than two billion black and white spheres through a series of experiments within several enclosed spaces.